Synopses & Reviews
Bud Powell was not only one of the greatest bebop pianists of all time, he stands as one of the twentieth centuryand#8217;s most dynamic and fiercely adventurous musical minds. His expansive musicianship, riveting performances, and inventive compositions expanded the bebop idiom and pushed jazz musicians of all stripes to higher standards of performance. Yet Powell remains one of American musicand#8217;s most misunderstood figures, and the story of his exceptional talent is often overshadowed by his history of alcohol abuse, mental instability, and brutalization at the hands of white authorities. In this first extended study of the social significance of Powelland#8217;s place in the American musical landscape, Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. shows how the pianist expanded his own artistic horizons and moved his chosen idiom into new realms. Illuminating and multi-layered, The Amazing Bud Powell centralizes Powelland#8217;s contributions as it details the collision of two vibrant political economies: the discourses of art and the practice of blackness.
"Ramsey's second book (after Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop) aims to understand 'one of jazz's greatest and indeed most mysterious stars' from a variety of perspectives. He takes in bebop from East to west and back West again with consideration given to the social, political, and economic contexts of its day, as well as the concept of the free-spirited, convention-defying 'musical genius' (in Ramsey's view 'the ultimate construction of the bourgeois subject'). It is a lot to take on in such a brief book and Ramsey doesn't quite pull it off. His tendency to quote in full often unnecessarily and his occasional isolation of mundane details drain energy from his subjects. For instance, the author makes fine observations on how 'the jazz industry' of the '40s and '50s took advantage of Black musicians, but then goes into no further detail about just how Powell's life and work were affected. What starts as an engaging criticism winds down into a pedestrian biographical observation with admirable but unrealised ambitions; it's jarring, and by trying to say a lot, results, inversely, in not saying enough. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"An important, thoughtful work for those wishing to probe beyond cliches."
"Ramsey writes with a musician's ear. . . . Full of beauty and that edgy logic."
"Equal parts biography, historiography, and music analysis, Ramseyand#8217;s brilliant study represents a much-needed examination of one of jazzand#8217;s most influential pianists and artists."
"What happens to a genius deferred? If that genius is Bud Powell, it finds resonance in the prose and cultural exegesis of Guthrie Ramsey, Jr., whose brilliant The Amazing Bud Powell offers one of the most compelling and generative views into this enigmatic giant of Black Modernism."and#151;Mark Anthony Neal, author Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities
About the Author
Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the prize-winning Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (UC Press).
Table of Contents
1. and#147;Cullud Boys with Beardsand#8221;: Serious Black Music and the Art of Bebop
2. Something Else: The Tests and Triumphs of a Modernist
3. Notes and Tones: Black Genius in the Social Order
4. Making the Changes: Jazz Manhood, Bebop Virtuosity, and a New Social Contract
5. Exploding Narratives and Structures in the Art of Bud Powell
Coda: Cultural Validation and Requiem for a Heavyweight